Highlighting his administration’s progress in the massive coronavirus vaccination campaign on Thursday, President Joe Biden called on Americans not to let their guard down despite a declining number of infections and hospitalizations in recent weeks.
“This is not a time to relax,” Biden said as he warned of the possible impact of virus variants. “We must continue to wash our hands, keep ourselves socially distant, and for God’s sake – for God’s sake – wear a mask. ”
Biden made the remarks as part of a ceremony to mark 50 million vaccine doses administered since he took office on January 20th. He had promised 100 million shots in his first 100 days – a goal critics later dismissed as not ambitious enough – and the halfway point was reached on his 37th day.
The president said that vaccine distribution to states has increased by 70% since his inauguration – from 8.6 million doses a week when President Donald Trump traveled to 14.5 million now – and that nearly 60% of people over the age of 75 have received at least one shot. The same is true for nearly 50% of those over the age of 65, he said.
In addition, Biden said that 75% of long-term residents – vulnerable populations that account for 30% of the 507,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States – have received at least one vaccine dose, a significant factor in the drastic reduction in their deaths in the last two months.
The vaccination program will get a big boost if the Food and Drug Administration gives the new single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine a permit for emergency use, as expected in the coming days.
An FDA advisory committee will decide Friday whether to recommend approval, and Biden tried to reassure the public that there would be no outside interference.
“We have to do it the right way,” he said. “The FDA will decide how a vaccine is based on science, in an emergency, not because of any political pressure from me or anyone else. ”
Also in the news:
►Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday extended Oregon’s declaration of state of emergency until May 2, when confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to fall across the state, but still the number of hundreds each day.
►The Food and Drug Administration allows Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to be sent and stored in freezers commonly found in pharmacies, instead of the ultra-frigidities that were originally needed after data from the company showed that the vaccine remains stable for up to two weeks in standard freezing temperatures. Thursday’s decision will make it easier to distribute and administer the vaccine.
►Three days after the United States became the first country to lose 500,000 lives to coronavirus, the worldwide number of COVID-19 deaths reached 2.5 million Thursday. The United States accounts for more than 20% of the total deaths, and more than 150,000 Americans have been killed by the disease as early as this year.
►Country music star Trisha Yearwood is “under the greatest care” at home after getting the virus, her husband, Garth Brooks, said in a statement. The press release says Yearwood is dealing with unspecified symptoms, but “makes it OK so far.” Brooks said he tested negative.
📈 Today’s figures: The United States has more than 28.4 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and 508,100 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Total sums: More than 112.9 million cases and 2.5 million deaths. More than 91.6 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the United States, and approx. 68.2 million, According to the CDC.
📘 What we read: Surgery for a child, paying off a loan, electricity bills: We asked Americans how they would spend $ 1,400 on stimulus control. This is what they said.
USA TODAY tracks COVID-19 news. Keep updating this page for the latest updates. Are you at a clubhouse? If so, set up our live discussion on COVID-19 at 19 EST Thursday.
South Korea, Hong Kong administers the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines
South Korea administered its first available shots of coronavirus vaccines to humans at long-term care facilities on Friday and launched a mass vaccination campaign that health authorities hope will restore some level of normality by the end of the year.
Health authorities plan to end the injection of the first of two doses to approx. 344,000 residents and workers in long-term care settings and 55,000 front-line staff by the end of March.
On Friday, Hong Kong also began administering its first COVID-19 vaccines to the public and launched its program offering free vaccinations to all 7.5 million residents.
Dr. Anthony Fauci warns against vaccines against cherry picking
Americans should not try to choose which vaccine they get, but should take the first one available, said Dr. Anthony Fauci Thursday.
Fauci, a top U.S. infectious disease expert, warned people not to put up with getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine if it becomes available soon while waiting for the slightly more effective Pfizer or Moderna shots. Fauci also told NBC News that a third vaccine becoming available “is good news only.”
Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine provides strong protection against severe COVID-19. It is expected to be approved by the FDA soon.
Fauci said it is a race “between the virus and getting vaccines for humans” – and the longer people wait, “the better chance the virus has of getting a variant or a mutation.”
Pfizer begins testing variants of booster shot targeting
Pfizer-BioNTech will begin testing a booster shot to combat COVID-19 variants, the companies announced Thursday. The announcement came a day after new research was published in New England Journal of Medicine confirmed that two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduced symptomatic COVID-19 cases in all age groups by 94%.
Now, the two-company partnership has asked 144 volunteers who participated in the earliest phase of its clinical vaccine trials last year to volunteer again to receive the booster, a third shot of the same vaccine designed to see if it will help them in combating new, more contagious varieties that have been in circulation in recent months. It is not yet clear whether a new vaccine or booster is needed to address the known variants, but companies want to be prepared if studies show that a new vaccine is needed.
“Although we have not seen any evidence that the circulating variants result in a loss of protection provided by our vaccine, we are taking several steps to act decisively and be ready if a strain becomes resistant to the protection provided by the vaccine. gives, “Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement.
– Karen Weintraub
Some GOP mayors are hot for the Biden stimulus package
When President Joe Biden’s emergency package of 1.9 billion. Dollar leads to vote Friday in Democratic-controlled House, cash-strapped town halls are some of the legislation’s biggest boosters. The bill could pass without the support of GOP House members, though Republican mayors are among those seeking federal assistance to rebuild tax revenue shortfalls. Thirty-two Republicans are among 425 mayors nationwide who called for Biden’s aid package COVID-19 to be reviewed in a letter through the U.S. Mayoral Conference to Congress.
“The need is real, and it’s not just in core Democratic communities,” said Bryan Barnett, the Republican mayor of Rochester Hills, Mich.
– Joey Garrison
They are back: Schools administer standardized tests again
As the K-12 teaching world sprouted in confusion last spring, many teachers and students quietly rejoiced at the disappearance of high-performance achievements. The Department of Education dropped the requirement for states to administer annual performance exams in reading and math, which usually hpens in the spring. Schools were about connecting students digitally.
But now these tests are coming back. President Joe Biden’s administration decided this week against yet another blanket waiver of the federally mandated performance exam this year, saying instead states can delay or shorten the tests or give them virtually – or skip tests by remote students.
“We know that schools and districts have started (pandemic schooling) with varying levels of competence and technology,” said Ethan Hutt, an education professor at the University of North Carolina at Chel Hill. “If we want to direct policy and resources to schools that are particularly hard hit, we need more precise information about what’s going on.”
– Erin Richards and Alia Wong
Do you want the COVID vaccine? For many colored people, it is a trust issue
Less than 14% of the U.S. population has received the vaccine, and preliminary data suggest that colored people are vaccinated at lower prices than white Americans.
Chelsea White, executive director of the Dallas Bethlehem Center, historically said that society does not trust the government or outside groups, especially when it comes to health care.
“COVID is bad enough for everyone, but when you have this kind of crisis in this neighborhood, it’s just catastrophic, and it will affect this neighborhood for years,” White said. “They overload, underdeliver and then go.” Read more here.